May Meeting Postponed

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News, Member News

SBI has been incredibly busy these last two months with grant proposals, educational outreach and Open Burn workshops. We have therefore postponed our May community meeting that was scheduled for May 8th until next month—June 12th. We will be featuring several great speakers—one of whom is Jason Aramburu of the re:char organization—and we will have lots of exciting news to share and ways you can become involved with our organization. Stay tuned for a newsletter that we will be sending out in early June, and be sure to mark June 12th on your calendars. The meeting will be at the Sonoma Grange, from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

We recommend you check out a meeting on May 8th instead in Santa Rosa on Navigating the New Economy.

When: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
7-9 pm, doors open at 6:30 pm
Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa
Tickets: General $10 in advance or $15 at door
Students $5 in advance or $10 at door
Advanced Tickets

Citizen Science Project Reaches Goal!

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

The Citizen Science Project reached its goal today of distributing 200 free bags of biochar and compost to gardeners around the Bay Area. Attendees at the Sonoma Garden Park Plant Sale put us over the top and we now have now given out 204 bags—-with more going out to Thomas Page Elementary School and a Daily Acts project on Monday. We want to thank everyone who has agreed to take part in this first-of-its-kind project in the U.S., as well as all the volunteers that helped us reach and exceed our goal. We also want to thank the Mental Insight Foundation and Sonoma Compost for their important contributions to this project. We do still have a few bags left so you can still take part if you contact us by signing up this week on the Citizen Science page. We will contact you about when and where to pick up.

DSC_1378_small

DSC_1376_Small

DSC_1388_Small

Bagging the Biochar for the Citizen Science Project

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

Volunteers from the Sonoma Biochar Initiative, the Sonoma Ecology Center Garden Park, and Green Valley Village filled bags of biochar and compost this past Saturday in preparation for the big Citizen Science Project distribution on April 20th. We greatly appreciate everyone’s help and are looking forward to distributing the material next weekend! Volunteers from San Francisco, Mill Valley, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Windsor have agreed to act as pick-up locations, so if you take part you won’t have to drive to Sonoma to get your bag. More information on these locations will be sent to participants the coming week. To sign up for the Citizen Science Project please GO HERE.

Bagging2

2013 Citizen Science Project Launches April 20th

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

Help us explore how biochar works in local soils using your personal, community, or school garden. Biochar has been shown in lab tests and scientific field trials around the world to be beneficial for soil health and plant production, and we want to test it in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. The project is easy, fun, and will be an interesting, science-based activity for the whole family. We are particularly interested in partnering with school and community gardens, so please let us know if you are connected to one of these.

SVHS-Earth-Club

All you will need is space for two 3’X3′ plots (preferably using the section of your garden with the WORST soil), some seeds or starts, a camera, a measuring device (a home- made pole ruler works fine), and email capability.  You will be engaging in a scientifically accepted form of research called photo-monitoring-the simplest U.S. EPA-approved method of demonstrating plant success.

We will provide you with free bags of biochar and compost blended together, instructions on how to plant, how to take the photos in a scientifically accepted manner, and when and where to send them to add to our data set. We are working on expanding our web site and developing a special blog to allow you to stay connected to the project and see the results others are having.

Distribution will take place on Saturday April 20th at several locations in the town of Sonoma, and we are looking for volunteers and distribution locations in other areas of Sonoma County (and elsewhere) to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible.

We only have 200 bags to give out so please click the link below to reserve yours now. We are taking reservations on a first-come, first-served basis. Feel free to tell friends and neighbors about this experiment, and if they are willing to take part in the planting and photo-monitoring protocols please have them sign up as well.

Click the link below and scroll down to fill out the
simple form. Please indicate if you can help us
bag or distribute the biochar as well.
Distribution Date:  Saturday April 20th, 9 A.M. to noon, at Sonoma Garden Park & 1 P.M. to 4 P.M. at the Sonoma Ecology Center Earth Day Celebration at the Sonoma Plaza. You will be sent directions and other information when you sign up.

USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Application Goes to Second Phase

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology, Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative received word on Friday that our California GIG grant application to fund the development and study of a farm-scale biochar operation has made the cut to stage two, and a full 30-page proposal has been requested. This grant, with matching funds provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency, would allow for the purchase of a steel retort from New England Biochar, to be located at Swallow Valley Farm in western Sonoma County, and 18 months of biochar field trials at Swallow Valley Farm, Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, and Green String Farm in Petaluma.

The grant would study the economic feasibility of a small-scale biochar operation, using feedstock primarily from the farm, and provide enough biochar for the field trials and some income for the farm as well. The field trials would focus on biochar’s effectiveness in increasing soil carbon, decreasing water needs over time, and increasing production.  Heat produced from the unit would be captured and utilized in the farm’s cheese-making facility.

SBI is competing with 16 other grant proposals from around the state vying for $375,000 in funds.

DSC_9520

Lambing Season at Swallow Valley Farm

 

55 Uses for Biochar

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

Here is another fantastic article from Hans-Peter Schmidt’s Ithaka Journal:

55 Uses for Biochar

Hans-Peter makes a great case for first using biochar in at least one other way before putting it in the ground for agricultural use:

“Biochar is much too valuable for it to be just worked into the soil without having it used at least once for more beneficial purposes – whether as storage for volatile nutrients, as an adsorber in functional clothing, as insulation in the building industry, as energy storage in batteries, as a filter in a sewage plant, as a silage agent or as a feed supplement. Such uses can be followed by use in a farmer’s slurry pit or in a sewage plant, before being composted. It should only be worked into the soil at the end of this “cascade”, helping to create Terra Preta.”

This piece is filled with ideas for entrepreneurs! Since we believe biochar is most valuable and beneficial when used in an agricultural setting, keeping biochar in a closed loop cycle on the farm (or a number of nearby farms) may be the highest and best approach. If first used as a feed or bedding supplement for chickens or cows, or in a farmer’s slurry pit, then composting the resultant material and manure, biochar becomes inoculated with nutrients as part of an integrated system—reducing these costs.

The Secret of El Dorado—Terra Preta

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology

If you have time over the holidays check out this video:

Produced by the BBC, this program gives an excellent historical overview of the terra preta (dark earth) soils in the Amazon and lays out an impressive case for using charcoal (we call it biochar) as a soil amendment to help build and maintain soil health worldwide.

I had only seen a few clips from this film before and it was very informative and inspiring to watch the whole thing. There is another short video at the end discussing biochar’s potential for sequestering carbon safely in soil.

Raymond Baltar

California Bill SB-1122: renewable bioenergy procurement

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml;jsessionid=cd36e5138d18004eeb1fc4f367a0?bill_id=201120120SB1122

This bill, signed into law by Gov. Brown on Sept. 27th, requires energy corporations to procure electricity from producers of bioenergy.  Here are a few key paragraphs:

SECTION 1.

 Section 399.20 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:  399.20.
 (a) It is the policy of this state and the intent of the Legislature to encourage electrical generation from eligible renewable energy resources.
(b) As used in this section, “electric generation facility” means an electric generation facility located within the service territory of, and developed to sell electricity to, an electrical corporation that meets all of the following criteria:
(1) Has an effective capacity of not more than three megawatts.
(2) Is interconnected and operates in parallel with the electrical transmission and distribution grid.
(3) Is strategically located and interconnected to the electrical transmission and distribution grid in a manner that optimizes the deliverability of electricity generated at the facility to load centers.
(4) Is an eligible renewable energy resource.
(c) Every electrical corporation shall file with the commission a standard tariff for electricity purchased from an electric generation facility. The commission may modify or adjust the requirements of this section for any electrical corporation with less than 100,000 service connections, as individual circumstances merit.
(d) (1) The tariff shall provide for payment for every kilowatthour of electricity purchased from an electric generation facility for a period of 10, 15, or 20 years, as authorized by the commission. The payment shall be the market price determined by the commission pursuant to paragraph (2) and shall include all current and anticipated environmental compliance costs, including, but not limited to, mitigation of emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution offsets associated with the operation of new generating facilities in the local air pollution control or air quality management district where the electric generation facility is located.
(d)(2) By June 1, 2013, the commission shall, in addition to the 750 megawatts identified in paragraph (1), direct the electrical corporations to collectively procure at least 250 megawatts of cumulative rated generating capacity from developers of bioenergy projects that commence operation on or after June 1, 2013. The commission shall, for each electrical corporation, allocate shares of the additional 250 megawatts based on the ratio of each electrical corporation’s peak demand compared to the total statewide peak demand. In implementing this paragraph, the commission shall do all of the following:(A) Allocate the 250 megawatts identified in this paragraph among the electrical corporations based on the following categories:
(i) For biogas from wastewater treatment, municipal organic waste diversion, food processing, and codigestion, 110 megawatts.
(ii) For dairy and other agricultural bioenergy, 90 megawatts.
(iii) For bioenergy using byproducts of sustainable forest management, 50 megawatts. Allocations under this category shall be determined based on the proportion of bioenergy that sustainable forest management providers derive from sustainable forest management in fire threat treatment areas, as designated by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
(iV) For the purposes of this subdivision, “bioenergy” means biogas and biomass.
_______________________________________________________________________
Of course the devil will be in the details, (and there are a LOT of additional requirements and details), but this action is certainly a big step in the right direction.  Phoenix Energy is right in the ballpark with their unit, as is the BiG Biochar unit and of course, the Adam Retort. There may be a sweet spot in size (say, projects 1 Mw to 3 Mw) that the utilities will prefer to work with, and that makes sense as far as interconnect costs go.  We still have to develop the biochar market before some of these ventures will pencil out, and that’s why getting an Adam Retort up and running in Sonoma County ASAP, and continuing to work on the profitability mechanics of these businesses, is critical.Raymond Baltar

Sonoma Biochar Initiative: A project of the Sonoma Ecology Center / Contact Us / Login